Testicular cancer is cancer that originates in the testicles, also called the testes. The testicles are responsible for producing the male hormones and sperm. Testicular cancer is usually rare, compared to other types of cancer. In males that are between the ages of 15 and 35, testicular cancer is the most common cancer. This form of cancer is very treatable, even after the cancer has spread to the surrounding areas. Treatment will be dependent on the diagnosis you receive.
There are many symptoms that are associated with testicular cancer. You will want to watch for the following:
You will want to schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as you start experiencing any of these symptoms. This is especially true if your symptoms have been around for longer than two weeks.
There is no clear cause of testicular cancer. Physicians do know that testicular cancer is caused by the cells dividing and not dying off. When these cells accumulate, they form a tumor or mass in the testicle.
There are a few risk factors that are involved in testicular cancer. White men are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than black men. It often affects those that are between 15 and 35 years old, but it can happen at any age. If you have family members that have had testicular cancer, then you are also at an increased risk.
Some abnormal testicle development such as Klinefelter syndrome may be a risk for testicular cancer. The other testicle problem that may occur that leads to testicular cancer is cryptorchidism, which is an undescended testicle.
There is no way to truly prevent testicular cancer. Physicians do believe that a self-examination will help to lead an early detection. It is also important to take care of yourself through healthy eating and exercise.
Diagnosis is typically found during a routine physical examination by your doctor or during self-examinations. Once the lump is found, then your physician may recommend a few other tests to confirm. A blood test is typically the next step which will determine the levels of tumor markers, which are substances that are found normally in blood tests. The levels of these tumor markers may be increased in certain situations; testicular cancer being one of these. A high level does not necessarily mean that you have cancer but will help your physician confirm the diagnosis.
A testicular ultrasound will use the sound waves to create an image of the testicles. During this test, you will need to lie on your back and a clear gel will be applied to the scrotum. A probe will be moved over the area to make the image. This can show the nature of the lumps, if they are solid, and if they are inside or outside of the testicle.
Radical inguinal orchiectomy is surgery that is done to remove the testicle. This is done if the lump on the testicle is cancer. After this surgery, it will be examined to see if it was cancerous and what type of cancer was involved. There are two types of testicular cancer. Seminoma occurs in all age groups, but is more specifically found in older men. These are typically not very aggressive. The other type is nonseminoma is typically found in earlier in life and tends to grow very rapidly. There are many types of nonseminoma like: yolk sac tumor, embryonal carcinoma, or choriocarcinoma.
Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, then it is important to know what stage the cancer is in. Your physician will want to know if the cancer has spread outside of the testicles. A CT scan can look at the chest, pelvis, and abdomen. A blood test can also look for tumor markers if the testicle has been removed. Once the stage has been diagnosed, then your treatment will be decided. The stages range from Roman numerals from 0 to III – III being the most advanced.
Treatment will depend on factors including your health, stage of cancer, and what you prefer to do. The first step is to try and remove the problem through surgery. There are two types of surgery that can happen. Radical inguinal orchiectomy is surgery to remove the testicle. This type of treatment is most common in all types and stages of testicular cancer. This surgery is done through a small incision in the group and extracts the testicle. If you are diagnosed early, then this is likely the only treatment that will be needed. The other type of surgery is a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection is a surgery to remove the nearby lymph nodes. This surgery is done through an incision in the abdomen. If surgery is the only treatment for testicular cancer, then you will need to keep your follow up appointments and tests.
Radiation therapy is used in people that have seminoma testicular cancer. This type of treatment may also be needed after the removal of the testicle.
Radiation therapy uses energy beams to kill cancer cells. During this type of treatment, you will lay on a table and a large machine will move around you and aims the beams at precise points.
Chemotherapy is a drug that is used to kill the cancer cells. This drug travels through the body and kills any cancer cells that have migrated away from the original spot. Chemotherapy may be used alone in some cases, but sometimes it is recommended before/after the lymph node removal surgery.
There are many emotions that may come with a testicular cancer diagnosis. We always recommend learning more about your diagnosis. When you learn more about your diagnosis, you will feel more comfortable making decisions with your diagnosis. When learning more about your diagnosis, be sure to read and talk to reputable sources.
Start a journal with questions you may have and also symptoms that you are experiencing. This notebook will be so important to bring to your appointments. You will be able to ask your questions to your physician and write down the answers. You can also show your physician what you have been experiencing. During your appointment, you can write down any instructions or recommendations your physician has.
The most important part of handling testicular cancer is to take care of yourself by exercising and eating well. Make better choices when you are grocery shopping. The best advice when grocery shopping is to shop only on the outside of the grocery store, as this is where the fresh items are located. If you do not currently exercise, then begin by just doing short walks in the evenings. You can build up to longer but you can also add in additional things, as recommended by your physician. It is important to also get enough rest. Feeling rested will also mean that you need to get rid of unnecessary stress. If you are currently a smoker, then you will need to quit smoking too. If you need help to quit smoking, ask your physician on what they recommend. Typically, the best steps are to begin the patch or nicotine gum.
It is also important to have someone to talk to. If you can, find other testicular cancer survivors. They will be able to talk you through exactly what you are going through. It is also important to speak to your family and friends about what you are going through. Ask someone to come to your appointments with you. Your friends and family are also concerned and care for you. If they offer to help you with things, let them help. It is a good distraction to go to things you are invited to. Do not keep the feelings to yourself, as this will cause unneeded stress while you are trying to get better.
Testicular cancer is one of the rarer forms of cancer found in males. However, it is the most common type of type of cancer found in younger men. It is typically diagnosed through self-examination or through a physical examination with your physician. Once testicular cancer has been diagnosed, then your physician will need to see if the cancer has spread and what stage it is. Your treatment will depend on your health, what you choose, and how advanced the cancer is. In most cases, surgery will be done to remove the testicle. It is important to take care of yourself while you are going through your treatment. This can be done by eating well, exercising, resting, finding support groups, and lowering stress levels. It is also important to find someone that you are able to speak to about what you are going through. This can be family or other survivors.
To request an appointment with Urology, call 251-343-9090. To request an appointment with Radiation Oncology, call 251-414-5665.